Apple speeding toward 25 billion app downloads

And there's a $10,000 iTunes card up for grabs

Apple's running total of the number of app downloads made via its App Store is quickly approaching 25 billion -- which means that the winner of a $10,000 iTunes gift card for the landmark downloader should be chosen sometime today or tomorrow.

A counter on Apple's site -- which, the company clarifies in the fine print, is for illustrative purposes only -- sits at just over 24,967,000 at the time of this writing. About 1,000 new downloads are added to the counter every couple of seconds.

BACKGROUND: Inside Apple iOS 5

Predictions for the exact time the contest will finish have varied, though a brief (and, we must point out, completely unscientific) experiment with a stopwatch seems to suggest that No. 25 billion will be downloaded shortly after midnight. Apple History, however, speculated Thursday that the end will happen tonight at about 11:30 p.m., while Mike Tuttle of Web Pro News has gone with 10 p.m. as the cut-off.

While the prize for the lucky 25 billionth download is hefty enough, the real winner might be that app's developer. Neon Play CEO Oli Christie said in a press release that his company's sales spiked substantially after its Paper Glider app became the 10 billionth download in January 2011.

"Although we'd already had success with games like Flick Football and Golf Putt Pro, this took us to another level entirely and provided us with a great springboard for 2011. At that time we had achieved around 6 million downloads and to date we've had over 30 million downloads across both iOS and Android platforms," he stated.

While the 25 billion mark doesn't have any particular intrinsic relevance, it does demonstrate the sheer volume of demand for mobile apps. Apple alone has seen its total number of downloads served more than double in the past 14 months, while Google announced that the Android Market passed the 10 billion threshold in December 2011. Instead of providing a big prize for a single winner, however, the company celebrated that milestone with a 10-day period in which groups of popular apps were made available for 10 cents.

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